Kero Blaster is the latest platforming video game from Amaya ‘Pixel’ Daisuke, the creator of the infamously good Cave Story. In it, you play a frog custodial agent, armed with a gun, and you travel to a variety of locations in an entirely linear sequence, until you run out of locations and are awarded with a game over screen.

Once upon a time in the market of video games this would be a positively blasé game summary, but in our modern days of sprawling high-budget multi-phong shaded extra-real-mapped exploratory cutscene-focused multidisc monstrosities, Kero Blaster stands out as an innocuous, short, fun indie game.

It’s not procedurally generated. It’s not infinitely replayable. It’s not designed to grab you and suck you in for hours. It’s not about someone with a mental illness, or the loss of identity that comes from having moved house. It’s definitely not about nuclear bombs or video games themselves. It’s a video game. It’s just a video game.

But what a video game!

keroblaster 1

Kero Blaster is very much a product of its developer’s personal tastes. If you never played a Commodore 64 game, the control scheme may seem a little odd. If you did, though, you’ll recognise it. The game only responds to two inputs at a time. If you’re shooting, and walking forwards, you can’t jump. If you’re shooting and jumping, you have to stop holding the jump button to move forwards or left or right.

For a lesser game developer, I would expect this control scheme to be a byproduct of limitations, but after Cave Story, I’m absolutely sure that this was done deliberately. When you play the whole game through you’ll see the fingerprints of this limitation in the level design. Once you learn that this is how the game controls, you realise that the levels are designed to use this limitation to create challenge. You are more mobile and more flexible than you may think, but you have to stop shooting to take advantage of it.

The skill of this game isn’t about twitch reaction speed, about swiftly identifying targets and moving away from them, or even memorising patterns. It’s in knowing what weapons to use and when, and learning the way those weapons interact with your movement. There are a few death-course parts of the game where the solution is to just stop moving from time to time.

If you’re used to a highly fluid style of platform game, where speed is the main factor in challenge, you’re going to feel a rude shock here. While Kero Blaster is a platform shooting game, it’s a thoughtful one. Endlessly punishing, it doesn’t give you many opportunities to mess up – and it will quite happily kick you all the way back to the start of a level if you mess up too often.

keroblaster 4

As to the actual game, taken as a whole? It’s perhaps a little shorter than I’d expect, but short is fine. Short is good. You don’t need to spend a thousand words explaining the virtues of a game where you can play a frog wearing a jetpack fighting its way through the Ice Level. Some things, especially in video games, can Just Be.

Charming, fun and challenging, with fantastic music and a wonderful variety of locations and enemies, Kero Blaster is quite a good game. It’s an upbeat silly pop song to Cave Story’s magnificent rock opera. It’ll be over faster than you think, but it will leave you grinning at the end.

Review: Kero Blaster
Did I somehow lose you after 'frog custodian with a gun and a jetpack?' A short, fun, challenging throwback and the best C64 game never made.
  • Bursting with charm.
  • Clever, coherent controls.
  • Varied environments and enemies.
  • A little bit short.
  • Controls demand you learn them.
  • Not long on replay value.
7Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

Talen is some guy, a gamer who lands annoyingly in the middle of the worst demographic. Sick and tired of the way most videogame developers seem to think he thinks, because of his age and gender and ethnicity, he's taken to throwing lots of words onto the internet, in the hopes that it somehow helps to change things.

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